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The Wilkes University wrestling team will enter the 2008-09 season ranked 25th in the preseason poll. Head coach Jon Laudenslager is excited about the upcoming season and the crop of returnees that finished 19-7-1 a year ago and a third place finish at the Metro Wrestling Conference Championships.
“I am very anxious about getting the season started,” commented Laudenslager. “We have many experienced wrestlers returning who are very motivated to be successful and when we mix in the talented newcomers, we have the making of a very good team. We have a nucleus of upperclassmen that still have many personal goals they are working towards and a team that wants to have a great year.”
Leading the group of returnees is a wealth of guys who have received much pre-season recognition. Senior Erik Smith (149) and junior Frank Heffernan (165), who both qualified for the NCAA Tournament a year ago, were named to the d3wrestle.com preseason honorable mention team. Senior Shaun Farnham (125) who was the Metropolitan Conference NCAA alternate last year, also landed on the d3wrestle.com honorable mention list.
Juniors Zach Pizarro (197) and Andrew Feldman (285) have also received plenty of pre-season attention. Pizarro comes into the season ranked eighth in the pre-season Division IIII National Coaches poll and ninth in the d3wrestle.com poll. Feldman received the highest d3wrestle.com ranking at sixth. Both will be a very good one-two punch at the end of the Colonels line-up.
Wilkes has plenty of experience to go along with Smith, Heffernan, Farnham, Pizarro and Feldman, who all finished as Metropolitan Conference runner-ups in 2008. Senior Josh Pauling returns at 133 pounds after posting 24 wins last year and a fourth place showing at Conferences. Sophomore Donald Clark is back at 141 pounds and had a 12-4 record his freshmen season, before rehabbing an injury all of last year. Also joining Clark at 141, will be junior Derek Brownmiller who drops from 149 after wrestling behind Smith his first two seasons. Junior Devin Sassone-McHugh (184) and Sophomore Travis Davis (174) also return as Conference participants that were one match away from placing in 2008
“The experience and driven freshmen class make for some very competitive weight classes with-in the practice room,” said Laudenslager. “We have a lot of depth at most weights, with each member working hard to improve and obtain a starting role.” The schedule is again a very competitive one, as the Colonels will compete with many of the country’s elite. “Hopefully, all of the tough competition will allow us to continue to improve throughout the season. Our goal is to work our way up so that we peak for the conference tournament and send multiple guys to the NCAA tournament.
Here is a breakdown of the Colonels by weight class:
125 Lbs.: Farnham, in his senior season, will look to earn his first trip to the NCAA tournament. He had a team high 35 wins a year ago. Sophomore Ryan Wilson, who had a good freshmen campaign by registering 18 wins at 133, could challenge at 125 this season if he chooses to make the drop down a weight class. Also looking to gain valuable experience this year will be freshmen Matt Manganiello and Sean Cox.
133 Lbs.: Pauling is back for his fourth season on the mats for the Colonels and is the top returning conference place winner in the Metro. Ryan Wilson, freshmen Jared Brownmiller and Josh Burman will also compete for mat time.
141 Lbs.: Perhaps the deepest weight for the squad with a trio of wrestlers. Former PA state runner-up Donny Clark returns after a year away. Derek Brownmiller who has produced many college quality wins and freshmen Anthony Dattolo, who placed fifth his senior year in New Jersey, all will battle for what should be a very good weight for the Colonels.
149 Lbs.: Smith, who will look to get to the medal stand at the NCAA tournament returns. Senior teammate Peter George, Junior Robert Griffith, Sophomore Frank O’Shea, freshmen Tom Andresen, Miguel Valentin and Tyler Nadolny will also look for mat time.
157 Lbs.: Sophomore James Histed is the top returnee at this weight and posted 16 wins as a freshman and will start the season at 165. Freshmen Richard Sparks, who had a perfect high school senior season cut short due to injury, has looked very impressive in the room and freshman Matt Brode will also be factors at this weight.
165 Lbs.: Heffernan, who will likely start the season up at 174 competed at the NCAA for the Colonels last season at this very weight. Junior Josh Ballan will also play a significant role and will be at this weight or the next. Junior Adam Levine, freshmen John Fritzsch and Tyler Ferry will also wrestle at 165.
174 Lbs.: Heffernan and Ballan, along with Travis Davis, who finished last season as the starter will all start the season at this weight. Look for Heffernan or Ballan to drop down by December. Junior Rich Pellegrini also has started for the Colonels in previous years. PA District XI Champion Buddy Gouger will also contend at this weight.
184 Lbs.: Devin Sassone-McHigh returns after claiming the varsity spot late last season. Also factoring in will be Sophomore Shawn Bradley, who had an 11-5 record in 2008 and freshmen D.J. Brown, who was a match away from the PA state tournament his senior year.
197 Lbs.: Junior Zach Pizarro should be a national contender. Pizarro was the number one seed in last years qualifier, before being upset in the Conference finals. Sophomore Chris Smith posted a 13-7 at 184 last season and is capable of winning many matches.
285 Lbs.: Feldman, who lead the team in pins a year ago with 13, returns and has put on 15 pounds in the weight room this off-season. He secured multiple dual meet victories for the Colonels as he anchors the end of the line-up. Joining Feldman after the football season concludes will be sophomores Jake Weinrich and Levi Stern.